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[Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

Hi Andy,

Thanks for some additional information.

Yes, "political expediency" (PE) is an understatement to be sure, from the sound of it. I don't know if I can imagine myself to denounce my own beloved teachers in order that I may live and be promoted. The idea makes me quite ill, and certainly more sympathetic to Leontiev.

However, the challenge seems to be that we must tease away the PE aspect to try to clear the view to the generation of the theories (or divergence thereof). If that isn't reasonable, let me know. I do not mean to be reductive and minimize the political issues in any way.

I am merely attempting to go slowly over this so that I gain a clear picture of the collision of ideas and the apparent wreckage and what pieces were retrieved and extended upon.

So I suppose there are a few things I would enjoy clarity about. 

First is historical:

How much do we know that is factual in Leontiev's motivation to deny the theories? What is speculative? This is not a flippant two questions. What I mean is are there contemporary documents (or any other documents that come after Stalin's death, or any other time) that discuss this parting of the ways and motivations for doing so? Is this Leontiev paper all that we possess?

What do you mean that the differences show through, despite the PE factor? We cannot fully remove the PE factor, I know, but how much does it explain the "real differences" if it is clouding the view?

Second is theoretical:

I understand perezhivanie is experiential, specific to the individual in question, based upon the person's genetics, level of development, emotional awareness, and intellectual ability at the time of the situation (event), but importantly that the perezhivanie is also inclusive of aspects of the environment itself and how the environment exerts force on the person (combined or in interaction with the more personal or "internal" factors).

[I'm afraid I was lost at the reference to the autobiography. Goethe is beyond the limits of my knowledge at this time. :) ]

Furthermore, that the development of the person is not necessarily a "summation of all perezhivanies." If only because a single experience can radically change a person's makeup entirely, whether for good or ill. That a single "unit" can possibly transform the entire whole? (I'm thinking for example the impact of PTSD. I hesitate to resort to a pathological example, it just what seems to illustrate the best about experiences affecting the whole). 

However I agree that my personality is the manifest expression of the "collection" of all my experiences, I'm not sure if I could say "summation," since this sounds mechanical in nature, rather than systemic.

Kind regards,


From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net>
Sent: Sunday, October 26, 2014 7:39 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: [Xcma-l] In Defense of Vygotsky [Perezhivanie cannot determine the personality]

I don't know exactly when the ANL document was written or where/if it
was published originally, but it was certainly after LSV's death and
before ANL's death (i.e. some time 1935-1975), most likely during
Stalin's time. "Political expediency" somewhat understates the issue. A
convincing denunciation of  a colleague's theory was very often a matter
of life and death. Which is not to say that the honourable choice may
not have been to speak the truth and take the consequences, rather than
lie and enjoy promotion. In that sense, this document, being dishonest,
is not the ideal medium for understanding the real differences between
these two former comrades. Nonetheless, I think the real differences
show through.

On the question of units. The idea is that a person's character develops
through a series of experiences. Each experiences adds a new
sensibility, a new aversion, a new preference, a new insight, etc., so
from that point of view a person's character can be understand as the
product or sum of a series of such experiences, as for example, when
someone writes their autobiography, especially if they follow in the
Goethean tradition of Bildungsromanen.

*Andy Blunden*

Annalisa Aguilar wrote:
> Hi Andy,
> I must explain: Since I hadn't read the entire paper, I was searching
> for the 8 points in the first half of the paper, which is The
> Prosecution half. This is to say the "8 charges" you had indicated in
> your post, are actually listed in the second half, the Defense half.
> So I suppose the structure threw me. (Sorry to create any confusion, all!)
> But I'd like to continue my exercise openly, as it appears there are
> watchers who are benefiting. So here goes (I will go more slowly and
> not flood the list).
> #1) The charge by Leontiev (Ad. 4): Perezhivanie, as a manifestation
> of the whole personality, cannot be the determinant of personality.
> One nagging question: Vygotsky, while living (as I understand), had a
> large social group in which they openly discussed all of these
> theories. If Leontiev was privy to this community, how could he not
> have understood the points concerning perezhivanie? It is not that I
> accuse Leontiev as being obstinate or thick (that would be an easy
> thing to do), but that I want to understand how could he have missed
> this if there were other parties available to discuss the nature of
> Vygotsky's perezhivanie? The community must have discussed these
> concepts without Vygotsky present, among each other. Am I wrong in
> this thinking?
> I don't think Vygotsky was like Jesus with confused disciples. It
> seemed that he treated his students as equals and that he himself
> benefited from their input to the theories.
> If I may, I position this question with the imagination as-if Vygotsky
> and Leontiev were here on this list discussing various theories, as we
> are here. There was a lot of discussion going on, sharing and the like.
> Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't these lectures on perezhivanie
> happen earlier in the decade of time Vygotsky graced us? Or am I mistaken?
> I suppose I am attempting to answer the question, How did Leontiev not
> understand perezhivanie as a determinant? And perhaps in gaining an
> answer to this question, we might learn something about *teaching* the
> concept of perezhivanie?
> Of course it is possible that this was entirely caused by political
> expediency. But if that is the case, how can we know this?
> But to the content of the charge: "Perezhivanie, as a manifestation of
> the whole personality, cannot be the determinant of personality."
> I am having a hard time discussing perezhivanie as a "fragment of the
> whole." If only because fragment means "a part of", and I don't think
> "unit" is necessarily a material thing, but also an abstraction like
> the whole is an abstraction.
> For example: The water molecule metaphor. (I hope we do not reduce the
> molecule to hydrogen and oxygen and begin flames on the list). In our
> perception, we *imagine* the molecule. We know that molecules exist,
> just like we know that the ocean exists. But when we perceive the
> ocean, it's also not a perception in its entirety, but completed in
> our imagination like the molecule is, and this is why I feel the unit,
> seen as a fragment, seems problematic.
> If we want to study the nature of oceans we want to study the nature
> of water, since water is the material of the ocean. Also, the water
> molecule is the unit we must use to understand the behavior of the
> water. And so the molecule becomes the unit of analysis.
> If the metaphor works, the ocean is the ideal, and final form. Can we
> say that the water molecule determines the nature of the ocean? It
> seems so, since the behavior of water (as indicated by the nature of
> its molecule) will reveal significantly the nature of the ocean,
> moreso than dividing the ocean into fragments, and I'm not sure how
> one would divide the ocean into fragments, anyway!
> BTW, I am proposing this metaphor because we know that LSV used the
> metaphor of the water molecule himself, though I don't think he spoke
> of oceans, just water. Still, I wonder if it works?
> Kind regards,
> Annalisa